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Parents And Grandfather Of Missing NY Girl Found Under Stairs Plead Not Guilty
The grandmother of 6-year-old Paislee Shultis, who was found in a secret room under a staircase, was awarded custody of her grandchildren amidst concerns over their wellbeing.
The parents and paternal grandfather of a 6-year-old New York girl who was found alive two years after her disappearance have reportedly entered pleas of not guilty.
Paislee Shultis’s non-custodial parents, Kirk Shultis Jr., 32, Kimberly Shultis, 33, and the child’s grandfather, Kirk Shultis Sr., 57, were arraigned this week, according to People. The three defendants pleaded not guilty after authorities with the Saugerties Police Department found Paislee in a secret room under the stairs of Shultis Sr.’s home on Monday.
Paislee’s father and grandfather were charged with custodial interference in the first degree and endangering the welfare of a child, according to arrest reports. The child’s mother, Kimberly, was charged with custodial interference in the second degree and endangering the welfare of a child.
Requests for comment to the Ulster County District Attorney and the Saugerties Town Court were not immediately returned to Oxygen.com.
Paislee disappeared from Spencer, New York, in 2019, as previously reported. Authorities long believed she was abducted by her parents shortly after they lost custody of Paislee and her older sister.
“We believe what happened after that point was that somebody informed the parents that the older child had been picked up by the legal guardian and by county officials at the time and that caused the parents then to take Paislee and flee,” according to Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra.
Paislee’s maternal grandmother was awarded custody in 2019 after raising concerns about the children’s late-night schedule, according to News 12. The grandmother claimed Kirk Shultis Jr. and Kimberly Shultis would take the kids to their jobs at construction sites until close to midnight when the parents could not afford daycare.
The grandmother also cited alleged drug use when seeking custody of the children.
Paislee’s father, Shultis Jr., had previous arrests in 2019, including an arrest in North Carolina after prosecutors accused him of possession of methamphetamine and heroin, according to News 12. For that case, he pleaded out to a lesser charge of drug paraphernalia and spent eight days in jail.
Shultis Jr. had also faced charges in Pennsylvania and pleaded guilty to home improvement fraud. He served two months in jail.
“I understand as a parent, no one wants to lose custody of their children, but sometimes, the right thing for us to do for our children is the hardest things to do for our children,” stated Sinagra, according to News 12. “What they should’ve done in 2019 when custody was granted to a third party, they should've relinquished the child rather than run and hide.”
On Monday, Saugerties Police acted on a tip that Paislee was being “held within a hidden location,” according to arrest reports. They obtained a search warrant and - with assistance from the New York State Police - they went to the Fawn Road residence just after 8:00 p.m.
Kirk Shultis Jr. was at the home and denied having any knowledge about Paislee’s whereabouts, according to the arrest reports. Police stated that in the two years since Paislee’s disappearance, he’d maintained he knew nothing about her whereabouts.
A detective’s observation skills led to the shocking discovery when he “noticed something about the staircase leading to the back of the residence into the basement of the house that caught his attention,” according to the Daily Freeman. Det. Erik Thiele used his flashlight and saw what he believed to be a blanket through the cracks of the stairs.
“And that is when detectives saw a pair of tiny feet,” stated police. “After removing several more steps, the child and her abductor were discovered within.”
Sinagra stated it wasn’t their first time visiting the Saugerties residence.
“It was pretty dingy. It was cold. There were blankets that were laying on the ground on the concrete floor. They were completely soaked, extremely heavy,” said Sinagra, according to CBS New York. “Now it is our belief that each and every time in the past two years that we went to the residence with new leads, that this is where the child and mother would hide.”
Police say Paislee was in good health and reunited her with her legal guardian and older sister.
According to CBS New York, both Shultis Jr. and Shultis Sr. were released, while Kimberly remains in custody in light of an existing warrant.